5 vegetables you need for Pakistani cooking

Last week, we shared 5 spices you need for Pakistani cooking. This week, it’s all about the vegetables. Using these 5 vegetables, along with the spices mentioned before, you can create the perfect base for a curry and many other Pakistani dishes.

In Pakistan, it is common sight to find vegetable carts being pushed in and around neighborhoods. Many households, including my in-laws, buy fresh produce on a daily basis as a result. This results in people eating what is in season, consume fresh produce, and reduce food waste. I recently learnt that many sabzi waalay (vegetable sellers) have bundle bags consisting of vegetables that are needed to make masala or the base base for a dish. And these vegetables are the 5 we will be listing here today.

So now that this fun fact is mentioned, here’s the list of vegetables:

  1. Tomato
  2. Onion
  3. Garlic
  4. Ginger
  5. Green chilli

Onion

Like many savory dishes, Pakistani cooking almost always begins with sauteing chopped onions in oil. The extent of sauteing them depends on the dish being cooked but more often than not, it is at least until they are translucent. Starting cooking with onions allows the strong, pungent smell to die down.

Pakistani cuisine usually uses red onions. This is not a hard and fast rule, so if you don’t have red onions on hand, feel free to use what is available.

Garlic & Ginger

Garlic and ginger are usually used together in a paste form. Ginger-garlic paste can be easily found in many Indian and Pakistani grocery stores. It can also be made at home by grinding peeled garlic and ginger (in equal quantities) into a paste. However, if you don’t have a paste at hand, worry not. Minced ginger and garlic will also do that trick.

Both these ingredients go in the oil almost at the same time as onions. Onions, garlic, and ginger are cooked together to allow for the strong smell to drift off and the oil to become flavored. Plus, I think the smell of these three ingredients cooking together is just divine.

Tomato

Tomato is a key ingredient to bringing the liquid consistency in curry base. As they have a lot of water in them, tomatoes are brought in towards the end of a curry base. After sauteing tomatoes for a minute, other spices are also added, along with salt. The salt draws the water out of the tomatoes. Tomatoes are cooked until mushy. Many a times, water is added to aid this process.

Green chilli

Green chillies are added sliced or chopped to a curry base. Green chillies are not necessarily added for heat or spicy-ness. Rather they are included to add an earthy, fresh, and hot taste to a curry base. There are different types of green chillies out there. The ones usually used in Pakistani cooking are the slender green chillies that have a higher heat level. If you don’t want a high spice level, green chillies with a lower heat level may also be used. These are usually ones that are thicker and longer.

You may also omit green chillies altogether. Although, we would strongly suggest against that. 😉

So there it is, 5 vegetables you need to get started with a delicious Pakistani dish. Next week, in the last post of this series, we will discuss some tips on making a curry base or curry sauce. Hopefully we’ll see you back here then. 🙂

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